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NHS still struggling to meet waiting time targets patients expect

11 May 2017

NHS England performance data published today for March 2017 shows the number of delayed days for transfers of care rose 7% from 184,855 in February 2017 to 199,260 delayed days in March 2017.

Today’s data also shows 90.3% of patients on the waiting list at the end of March 2017 had been waiting less than 18 weeks. Waiting times for planned surgery often improve in March and this is a slight improvement from February 2017, when 90% of patients had been waiting less than 18 weeks. However, it is a rise of over one percentage point when compared with March 2016 (91.5%). The total number of patients on the waiting list continues to grow with 3.73 million patients at the end of March 2017(excluding non-reporting trusts).

Neurosurgery remains the worst performing recorded treatment specialty – 83.7% waiting less than 18 weeks in March 2017. 

NHS England recently announced that from April 2017 the 92% target for planned would be deprioritised. They said that a rise in waiting times for routine procedures, which can include operations to remove benign brain tumours and heart surgery, would be a “trade off” for improvement in other areas, such as hitting the four-hour A&E target, and better cancer care. The data for March 2017 is not impacted by this announcement.

Waits for A&E improved compared to the previous month with 90% of patients being seen within 4 hours in all A&E departments this month; however, this still misses the 95% target. 

Miss Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“The future of our NHS should be front and centre of many peoples’ minds when they go to the polling stations in June.

“More people and more illnesses are now being treated in the NHS than ever before. We know care in our NHS is of a high quality, yet figures over the last year paint a picture of an NHS where people are once again having to wait longer; longer to be seen in A&E, longer for their surgery, and longer to leave hospital.

“Delayed transfers of care remain a major issue for hospitals. We would like to see the next Government set out how they will protect bed capacity in hospitals and improve our social care system, so that patients who should not be in hospital in the first place and are given the correct alternative care in the community.

“These numbers drive home the struggle our hospitals and the dedicated staff that work in them face every day. No surgeon wants to have to tell a patient they will need to wait longer, for example, for heart surgery that could prevent them becoming seriously ill but sadly, this is now happening too regularly.

“A lack of available hospital beds, rising demand from older and sicker patients, and an under-funded social care system are all putting our health service under enormous strain. This translates directly to longer waits for treatment, cancelled operations and rationing of care.

“Until our social care system is working properly and we better protect planned bed capacity, there is little hope of NHS waiting times getting back to acceptable levels.”

Notes to editors

Full data available here:

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

For more information, please contact the Press Office:

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